Blast Blue ‘98 competing at Region III tournament in Texas

Cody Dalton
Sports Editor

Taking the biggest stage they possibly ever have, 15 of the Catawba Valley Youth Soccer Association’s best female athletes will face off against some of the premier soccer competition in the Southeast starting today.

The CVYSA’s Blast Blue ‘98 girls soccer team is competing in the 2016 Region III Presidents Cup, which is being held in College Station, Texas.

The U17 team qualified for the tournament by winning the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association (NCYSA) Kepner President’s Cup in November with a thrilling 4-1 victory against the Wesley Chapel-Weddington Athletic Association Black.

“It was a little bit of pay back,” said Sue Schellenberger, who has coached the Blast Blue ‘98 girls for the past four years. “We had lost to that team 1-0 earlier in the season. They’ve always kind of been a team we’ve battled back and forth with. It was nice to finally get some payback.”

The CVYSA Blast Blue ‘98 are comprised of female athletes from four counties and 13 high schools, including Newton-Conover, Hibriten, Hickory, St. Stephens, Fred T. Foard, Bunker Hill, Alexander Central, West Caldwell, Statesville Christian, South Caldwell, West Iredell, Burns and Freedom.

Members of the team include Amanda Rojo, Jordan Winters, Adasyn Neuwirth, Daisy Hensley, Madelyn Becker, Shannon O’Neill, Caroline Craig, Indee Jo Swanson, Morgan Malikowski, Gwyneth Stanislaw, Pammy Fish and Ali Goforth.

Marissa Brown, Jess LaFrancis and Corby Bailey were also recently added to the squad after replacing Joella Knopf, Kysten Franklin and Josie Rikard, who are out with injuries.

Schellenberger said the unique mix of talent from across the area has led to success on the soccer field.

“Each year, they make the commitment to become better players. That’s been the driving force behind the team,” she said. “I always had a feeling about this team. Most of them have been together for a long time. It’s been one of those teams without a lot of drama. They’ve kind of bought into the vision that we’ve had for them.”

Schellenberger said the journey from this past fall’s thrilling title win to finally arriving in Texas on Tuesday has been an interesting one.

“I had to color my hair last week to cover the grey,” Schellenberger said jokingly. “The parents were in charge of getting (the players) here. We did some fundraising this past spring to cover the hotel costs and food while we are here. It’s definitely been a bigger undertaking than I thought it would be, but we’ve had some parents really step up.”

The Blast Blue ‘98s will face stiff competition in Region III that includes state champions from Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

Schellenberger said the preparation to face unknown opposition has been difficult.
“We’ve never really been on a platform like this,” she said. “We’ve played teams from all over, but it’s been in showcases. This is the first time we’re seeing teams that are as good or better than us, but we’re going to prepare like we normally do.”

The journey to a potential Region III title starts on Wednesday morning with a match up against the Dallas Texans 99G South.

The Blast Blues will also face the SCUFC Crescent Blue (S.C.) at 2 p.m. Central Standard Time on Thursday and against the Southern Alliance Futbol (Ga.) at 3:30 p.m. CST Friday.

If the Blast Blue ‘98 girls can advance past pool play, they will participate in the semifinals Saturday and a win there places them in Sunday’s Region III championship game.

Schellenberger believes her team has as good a chance as any to make a run to the title.

“When all cylinders are clicking, we are pretty tough to beat,” she said.